Single-sex education versus co-education

This report, published in the American Psychological Association’s Psychological Bulletin, synthesises research on the effects of single-sex education compared with co-education. A total of 184 studies were included in the review, representing the testing of 1.6 million pupils aged 5-18 from 21 nations. Of these studies, 57 were categorised by the authors as controlled (higher quality, including controls for selection effects or random assignment).

Based on mixed-effects analyses, the controlled studies showed only trivial differences between pupils in single-sex versus co-education settings for maths and science performance, and in some cases showed small differences favouring co-education (eg, for girls’ educational aspirations).

Source: The Effects of Single-Sex Compared With Coeducational Schooling on Students’ Performance and Attitudes: A Meta-Analysis (2014), Psychological Bulletin, online first February 2014.

Improving outcomes for children and their parents

A new article published in European Child Adolescent Psychiatry indicates that parent-focused interventions, implemented in the early years, can result in improvements in child and parent behaviour and well-being 12 months later, as well as a possible reduced reliance on formal services.

The article describes an evaluation of the effectiveness of the Incredible Years Basic parenting programme (IYBP) in reducing child conduct problems and improving parent competencies and mental health. A total of 103 families and their children (between ages 2 and 7), who previously participated in a randomised controlled trial of the IYBP, took part in a 12-month follow-up assessment. Child and parent behaviour and well-being were measured using psychometric and observational measures. Pre- to post-intervention service use and related costs were also analysed.

Results indicate that post-intervention improvements in child conduct problems, parenting behaviour, and parental mental health were maintained, while service use and associated costs continued to decline.

Source: Reducing Child Conduct Disordered Behaviour and Improving Parent Mental Health in Disadvantaged Families: A 12-month Follow-up and Cost Analysis of a Parenting Intervention (2014), European Child Adolescent Psychiatry.

Incredible Years achieves “proven” rating

Incredible Years is a suite of programmes that target children up to age 12 who are at risk of, or who are exhibiting, conduct problems. The series has been given an overall rating of “proven” in a new programme summary from the Promising Practices Network, the highest rating they apply. The summary notes that studies of Incredible Years have generally focused on short-term effects, but that the handful of longer-term studies reviewed did show some significant extended effects of the programme. You can find out more about Incredible Years at the IEE conference, when Tracey Bywater (IEE), and Kevin Lawrence (Children’s Services Manager, Barnardo’s Cymru) will be running a session on the programme.

Source: Programs that work, Promising Practices Network.

Supporting students around the world

This systematic review from the Campbell Collaboration explores the question: “What are the effects of interventions implemented in developing countries on measures of students’ enrolment, attendance, graduation, and progression?” To be included in the review, studies had to meet certain research criteria; for example, studies had to use a randomised controlled trial (with or without baseline control), or a quasi-experimental approach in which baseline controls on main outcomes were included. The final sample included 73 experiments and quasi-experiments. The most common interventions were conditional cash transfers, funding or grants to communities, school breakfasts or lunches, or remedial education or tutoring.

Results showed that the average effects across four main outcome areas (school enrolment, attendance, dropout, or progression) were all positive and statistically significant, although effects on enrolment, attendance, and progression were larger than those on dropout. Results also indicated positive and statistically significant effects for maths achievement and language achievement, but there was no evidence of effects on standardised test scores or other achievement outcomes.

Overall, the authors note that the effects were relatively small in magnitude. They say that “despite the statistical significance of the findings for the main outcomes, most of the effects are equivalent to about 3-9% improvements in the intervention versus control groups.”

Source: Interventions in developing nations for improving primary and secondary school enrollment of children: A systematic review (2012), Campbell Systematic Reviews

Is it worth learning a foreign language?

CfBT Education Trust has published a report into the teaching of foreign languages. It looks both at the research evidence on early language learning and the policy implications. The report considers the research evidence on the cognitive benefits of learning a second language, and finds that these are found in young foreign language learners as well as for bilingual children. There is also evidence of the ways in which studying another language helps with literacy in a child’s first language, and provides opportunities to study language in general.

The report finds that the research evidence is less clear about when a child should start to learn a foreign language. An early start alone is not a guarantee of success – the amount and quality of teaching, as well as continuity of learning into secondary school, are important.

Source: Education’s hardest test: Scaling up aid in fragile and conflict-affected states (2010), CfBT Education Trust

Do students perform better when schools offer extracurricular activities?

A new PISA in Focus study from the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), looks at whether pupils perform better in science if they are encouraged to participate in extracurricular activities, such as field trips and science projects. Most countries (22 of 31 OECD countries) demonstrated that pupils did perform better at science in schools that offer more extracurricular activities compared with pupils in schools that offer fewer of these activities. The types and availability of extracurricular activity vary widely across countries, but the study shows that the relationship between improved pupil performance and extracurricular activity is consistent, with Germany and Australia having the strongest correlation.

Another finding of the study is that in addition to performing better, pupils in schools that offer more science-related extracurricular activities also report more positive attitudes toward the subject. They tend to believe more in their own ability in the subject (22 OECD countries) and enjoy learning science more (20 OECD countries). After accounting for socio-economic background, the positive relationships between achievement, enjoyment, and self-efficacy still hold for most countries. In particular, no negative relationships between science-related extracurricular activities and positive attitudes towards science learning were found.

Source: Are students more engaged when schools offer extracurricular activities? (2012), PISA in Focus